Cattle grazing - The oldest form of use of meadows by man, which arose much earlier than their haying. Grazing has an effect similar to that of ungulates on various herbal biogeocenoses before the start of human activities.
For a very long period of time, the conjugate evolution of grazing wild animals with other organisms that make up the corresponding biocenoses took place. As soon as a person began to use herbal biogeocenoses as natural pastures and herbal biogeocenoses created by him on the site of forests and shrubs, the process of selecting plant species that can grow under more intensive influence of grazing animals, forming plants that had previously been influenced - grazing, making them able to successful growth together with other species in conditions of impact on them grazing animals (the formation of certain types of life strategies). This process continues at the present time, when there are meadow pastures of various ages: from several years or decades to pastures where cattle grazing has been carried out continuously for many centuries (for example, high-mountain pastures).
In terms of grazing, which lasts for a long period of time, with a more or less constant intensity of grazing, sufficiently stable highly productive systems were formed, formed by plants adapted to cattle and their consorts and the soils formed under their influence, characterized by well-developed turf, significant organic matter and nutrients. The process of creating pasture ecosystems under conditions of more intense human impact, including the use of fertilizers, is currently taking place at pasture creation, at arable land or after radical improvement of meadows. According to observations in New Zealand, on cereal (perennial ryegrass) clover pastures with the annual application of phosphorus-potassium fertilizers occurs: gradual consolidation of the soil, reaching a maximum by 25 years, accumulation of organic matter in the soil (over 15 years), an increase in nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, reducing the C / N ratio. In the surface horizon of the 25-year-old pasture soil, as compared with the pasture at the age of one and a half years, there was more: carbon 2 times, nitrogen 4 times, sulfur 2.5 times, organic phosphorus 1.5, and mineral minerals 3.5 times , the C / N ratio decreased from 21 to 11 (Midieton, Smith, 1978). The content of phosphorus and sulfur increased due to the annual introduction of superphosphate.
Meadow grazing on meadow biogeocenoses has a stronger and more varied effect than grass mowing. Depending on how grazing is carried out, it either leads to a decrease in
the economic value of the meadows up to their transformation into “waste lands”, or to a significant increase in their productivity and improvement of the quality of forage received from them, first of all when rational forms of pasture use are combined with fertilization, and sometimes also with irrigation. Cattle affect meadow biogeocenoses, eating the aboveground organs of grassy plants (grazing), affecting the plants and the soil with their hooves (trampling), postponing excrement. These forms of exposure can be distinguished from zoogenic factors into a special group of anthropozoogenic factors, they affect meadow plants both directly and indirectly through changes in growth conditions. Their combined effect varies greatly depending on the type of meadow (soil, moisture conditions, vegetation), the type of grazing animals, the form of grazing (unregulated, so-called “free grazing”, regulated, penning grazing), the number of grazing animals per unit area ( and "load" - the number of livestock grazed on a unit of area during the pasture season, and "density of livestock" - the number of livestock grazed simultaneously on a unit of area), meteorological conditions, etc. On well-drained when grazing livestock in dry weather, especially with the use of rational use of pastures, grass grazing is of the greatest importance; wet soil predominantly in spring or in rainy weather and with a large number of grazing animals is especially affected by trampling in places where cattle accumulate (camps and etc.) - the deposition of feces in combination with trampling.